The Depressing Race For The 8th Seed In The… Western Conference?

Why is it, that in a great NBA season, races for playoff seeds seem to be depressing?  We know about the Eastern Conference.  We know it sucks, and at least one bad team will make the playoffs.  The Western Conference has been fantastic this year, but since the Trade Deadline, it seems that it’s becoming a little bit like the East’s.  Depressing.  How though?

Since the Trade Deadline, Oklahoma City rebuilt their bench, and Phoenix blew up their chemistry.  New Orleans, who’s hanged around this year, lost Anthony Davis for the second time to a shoulder injury.

The case for all three of these teams is there.  It’s matter of who stays healthy, and whether teams can adapt to newcomers.  Phoenix has to adapt.  The Suns traded away Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, and got back multiple big men.  They also acquired Brandon Knight, who will replace Dragic.

It seemed strange to me that my Suns would break up the near perfect chemistry they have in the middle of a playoff race.  My theory was that they were semi-tanking.  Basically, trying to get a higher pick, while also causing some ruckus in the conference.

The other side of my theory stated that the Suns are truly breaking up the team, but would still try to contend for a playoff spot.  The trades they made don’t end their season.  They aren’t rebuilding.  They are reduxing, like Miami did this past summer.  It’s risky doing that in the middle of the season, and it’s a risk the Suns are taking.  They understand that they may not make the playoffs.  Yet, these trades could come together quite nicely, and work instantly.  It’s a wait and see.  The opportunity for the Suns could actually be there.

The Thunder have been injury riddled all year.  Kevin Durant broke his foot before the season began, and he sat out longer then expected.  Since his return, he played decently, but has had more issues with the foot.  The latest? A small procedure to the foot he broke.  He’s gonna be out at least a week.  That’s when he’ll be re-evaluated.

OKC has done decent without Durant most of they year.  They’re in the playoff race, and after a win Thursday night, they jumped into the 8th seed for the first time this year.  Russell Westbrook has been phenomenal this year.  The guy goes 100 MPH every night, and is a ferocious competitor.  He’s carried this team, even when Durant has played.  KD hasn’t been 100% at any point this year, and it’s quite amazing they’re where they are.

However, if this injury is one that Durant can’t get over, OKC could be in trouble.  Yes, they have a new bench.  Yes, they have Russell Westbrook.  But, this is the Western Conference.  One great player might not be enough.  The Thunder are a great team when healthy, but they don’t have amazing chemistry.  Adding the new guys may mess with the chemistry they had.  It takes time, and sometimes it doesn’t work.

OKC’s biggest problem is Durant.  If he’s healthy, the Thunder will be the 8th seed in the West.  No one is better than them.  If Durant is still hurt, or even shut down, OKC has Phoenix to worry about.

The Suns and Thunder have issues, yet they’re different.  On paper, OKC’s is better.  When it comes to being healthy, Phoenix’s is better.  Chemistry plays a huge part, and both have questions with that at this stage.

So could neither of these two make the playoffs?  It’s not inconceivable, but not likely.

The last possible team who could spark a fire in this race is New Orleans.  At 10th in the West, they’ve hung around.  It’s quite remarkable, and kinda insane when you look at their roster.  One guy sticks out though.

Anthony Davis is the best young player in the league.  He’s so young, that’d he’d be a senior at Kentucky this year if he stayed (Can you even imagine that?  Good lord.)  Did I mention he’s super good?   Davis is a freak.  That’s the only way to put it.  He does so many things.  He’s the only reason why the Pelicans are where they are.

New Orleans is only three games behind OKC for the 8th seed.  It’s not crazy that they could make a push.  However, the Pelicans, like OKC, need their stars to be healthy.  Davis has been healthy for most of the year, but has battled a shoulder problem the past three weeks.  Just yesterday, the Pelicans announced that he’d be out two weeks with the issue.

A lot can change in two weeks in this conference.  Anything could happen.  It’s not only the Pelicans who have to worry about it.  OKC and Phoenix understand it.

There is two ways this could go.  1) All three teams overcome their problems, and create an incredible race for the 8th seed that comes down to the final night of the year.  One team prevails, while the other teams aren’t disappointed.  2)  The Thunder shut down Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis never gets to 100%, and the Suns, somehow, squeak into the playoffs with a team that hasn’t gotten used to each other.

It could go both ways.  One is glass half-empty, and one is glass half-full.

As a Suns fan, I’m hoping KD and Anthony Davis don’t get healthy.  I wish no harm or ill, againist them, but that’s part of being a fan.  You have to root againist people.

As for what I expect, Russell Westbrook can carry this OKC team to the playoffs without KD.  He’s that good.  KD could come back and play fantastic, putting the Thunder in the playoffs no matter what.  There would be no chance for the Suns or Pelicans.  It’d be over.

Right now, you can’t count on that.  KD has to be healthy, or at least 75%.  The new bench will help, but KD is the second best player in the league.  He has to be healthy.

Phoenix has an opportunity here.  If the new players can mesh quickly and win games, the Suns might leapfrog OKC.  I’m not saying it’s gonna happen, but it’s possible.

New Orleans is barely hanging on right now.  Without Anthony Davis, they aren’t much of anything.  That roster needs help, and maybe a new coach.

Whatever happens with this, some one will barely sneak in.  It’s going to be a nail-biter, but it’s possible that the teams that gets in, won’t deserve it.  We just have to wait and ponder.

NBA Trade Deadline Round-Up

I wasn’t planning on writing this column.  I didn’t think I was gonna have to.  Of course, I expected some moves to be made on Thursday, but not any that would be monumental.

After Thursday, everything I know about basketball seems to be gone. Everything.  It’s obliterated.  Yet, I still wrote close to 2,900 words about it.

17 teams made moves.  39 players changed teams.  That’s 10% of the league’s players.

Thursday is the day where teams are supposed to gear up for a playoff run.  Teams are supposed to finalize their rosters.  They did just that yesterday.  It was madness.  Absolute madness.  More madness than the MLB’s past deadline.  How?  Because most of what went down happened within the final 20 minutes before the deadline, just adding to the madness.

I’m going through every trade that took place yesterday.  Let’s do it:

The 13 Trades:

Denver gets: Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson, Portland’s upcoming pick, 2nd round  pick
Portland gets: Arron Afflalo, Alonzo Gee

Thoughts:  I wasn’t impressed with this at first.  What was proven to me though, is that Portland is going all in.  They know what conference they play in, and know that they needed more.  The Trail Blazers lacked depth at guard, and grabbing Arron Affalo will solidify that.  My main problem with this trade is that Portland won’t be able to play Affalo in crunch time.  I don’t believe him and Damian Lillard will mesh.  They’ll have to play separately.  Portland gave up a lot of depth for Affalo.  They better hope he’s part of their future plans.

As for Denver, I predicted them to be a fire-sale at the deadline.  Everyone was supposed to on the block.  That was true, but Denver was quite through the rest of the day.  Denver wants picks, and that’s what they got from the Trail Blazers.  With Affalo not in Denver’s plans, I don’t think they care to much about what they get back.  The package Denver got back is mostly bench players, who’ll eventually turn into assets.

This trade might be a wait and see.  Watching Portland with Affalo might be the key to figuring out who won it.  We may have to wait until Portland is in the playoffs, and see how it helps them when it really matters.

Thomas Robinson has been bought out by the Nuggets and is a free agent.  I’m sure he’ll get picked up.

Sacramento gets: Andre Miller
Washington gets: Ramon Sessions

Thoughts:  George Karl gets hired by the Kings and does what?  Goes and gets a player who he’s had before, and who he’s also butted heads with.  While Andre Miller was in Denver, George Karl was his coach.  Miller was never happy with his role, and it led to many disagreements between the two.  However, Karl has a thing for Miller’s game.  My guess is Karl pushed for the trade, and Sacramento allowed him to have some control.  It’s about time they let a coach have some power.

In return, the Wizards got a backup guard, who’ll be decent enough to backup John Wall.  Ramon Sessions is simply decent.  He can come in and play well, but Washington shouldn’t expect a ton from him.  Overall, this is a good sign if you’re Kings fan.  Your owner has started to chill out a bit.

Brooklyn gets: Thaddeus Young

Minnesota gets: Kevin Garnett

Thoughts: I walked into Advisory class Thursday morning and broke the news that Minnesota was looking at Kevin Garnett.  Immediately, the whole classroom was stunned.  They couldn’t believe it.  Garrett is a hero in the Twin Cities (I live there).  He’s the best player who’s ever played for the Timberwolves.  Everyone loves him.  I warned though, that this may not have anything to do with basketball.

This is strictly about Garnett’s life after basketball.  With this trade, I expect Garnett to finish his career with the Timberwolves, and retire after the season.  The reward?  A stake in the team’s ownership.  That’s this was about.

For now, Timberwolves fans get back their hero.  For two months, fans get to watch the greatest player ever in Minnesota basketball history.  That’s what this is about.

Denver gets: Nothing
Philadelphia gets: JaVale McGee, pick

Thoughts: LOL.  Denver paid Philly to take JaVale McGee.  What a conundrum.

Miami gets: Goran Dragic, Zoran Dragic
New Orleans gets: Norris Cole, Shawne Williams
Phoenix gets: Danny Granger, Justin Hamilton, John Salmons, 2 1st round picks

Thoughts:  Man.  The whole Goran Dragic things changed within just a couple days.  Dragic had gone from one of the most fun to watch point guards and backcourts in the league to just another player getting traded.  The way he came after the Suns was quite surprising, as he publicly stated he wouldn’t re-sign this coming Summer.  Then, he called out the front office, which kinda made no sense.  It was unnecessary.

Knowing this, the Suns knew that losing Dragic for nothing wouldn’t be fun.  So, why not get something back?

When the news was released, tons of teams popped up.  Some teams that were in contention, some that weren’t.  The Kings, Lakers and Celtics were all interested, but pulled out.  Why?  Because the team that traded for Dragic needed to know he would re-sign.  Dragic didn’t want to sign with a bad team.  When the three teams listed above found that out, they pulled out.  Giving up a lot for a two moth rental would be a disaster.  Ask the A’s.

That narrowed the teams.  As the morning broke Thursday, Miami eventually emerged as  favorite.  I was skeptical of Miami’s pursuit.  The fit would have been great, but Miami had no assets to trade back.  That was my issue.  The Heat though, didn’t care and got the deal done.

Perhaps the funniest thing about this trade had to do with Dragic’s brother, Zoran.  Phoenix sent him to Miami too.  In return, they got three bench guys who’ll provide size and shots. Danny Granger is one of most interesting stories in the league, as he went from face of the Pacers to a bench guy.  He’s alright, but can shoot decently.  John Salmons is solid bench guy, who provides size, which is what Phoenix needs.

The biggest impact in this trade is how perfect this fit is for Miami.  Their guard play all year hasn’t been great.  Injuries and youth has plagued them.  The Heat sent Norris Cole to New Orleans, clearing space for Dragic.

The fit for Dragic couldn’t be better.  He’s a perfect compliment to Dwayne Wade, and will run  great pick and rolls with Chris Bosh.  This is what Miami needed.  This lifts them from the dust.  They needed someone to command the court, and with the rise of Hassan Whiteside, this team is now set.  This is now a scary team, and whoever ends up playing them in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs better be scared.

Houston gets: K.J. McDaniels
Philadelphia gets: Isaiah Canaan, 2nd round pick

Thoughts: This was part 1 of ‘What is Philly doing?’  Seriously.  I don’t know what they’re doing.  K.J. McDaniels has been one of the best rookies this year.  Though he’s super raw, his paint skills are incredible, and he blocks almost every shot there is.  He’s really good, and only signed a one year deal.  He’ll be making some big money as a second year player.  So why did Philly trade him?

My best guess on this is, well…

Unknown-7

 

I hate to be this way, but there’s no other way!  Nobody else would have traded K.J. McDaniels.  Plus, the return they got back is super lackluster.  Isaiah Canaan is still young, but hasn’t done a whole lot in the league.  Perhaps playing for a bad team could boost him, as he was on Houston.  If I’m the Rockets, I’m playing McDaniels a lot.  The kid has a ton of potential, and I’d definitely want to re-sign come summer, no matter how he plays the rest of the year.

Part 2 of Philly’s tank-a-thon coming later…

The following trades took place in the final 10 minutes before the deadline.  It was madness, and I could barely control myself in English class.

Houston gets: Pablo Prigioni
New York gets: Alexey Shved, two 2nd round picks

Thoughts:  It seems that Houston’s goal this deadline was to acquire depth, so that’s what they did.  What they gave up for Pablo Prigioni seems like a lot, but Alexey Shved seems to a pinball.  He’s just another dude on the Knicks for now.  Pablo is gonna do some dishing, and can defend a typical point guard.  He’s not great, but is a very solid bench guy.  He’s not someone who will largely contribute though to the Rockets.

Boston gets: Luigi Datome, Jonas Jerebko
Detroit gets: Tayshaun Prince

ThoughtsPoor Tayshaun Prince.  The guy has played pretty well this season and has been traded twice in two months.  He was exchanged for Jeff Green, and put on a lowly Celtics team.  Now, he’s playing for the team who drafted him and who he spent 11 years with.  It’s a great story.  Detroit seems determined to make the playoffs after letting Josh Smith go, and as I’ll get to later, has made other moves.  Prince will shoot some threes, giving some pop to Detroit’s offense.  His shooting decisions though need work, but with Stan Van Gundy as coach, that should be able to change pretty quickly.

Detroit gets: Reggie Jackson
Oklahoma City gets: D.J. Augustin, Enes Kanter, Steve Novak, Kyle Singler
Utah gets: Grant Jerrett, Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City’s pick, 2nd round pick

Thoughts: This monster went down three minutes before the clock hit 2 PM CST.  Overall, this is a great trade in all ways.  Oklahoma City deals away Reggie Jackson, who was benching himself because he wanted to be traded.  Jackson is an expiring, and was gonna leave the Thunder anyways.  For him, they get D.J. Augustin, a really dicey point guard who shined in last year’s playoffs with Chicago.  Augustin will come off the bench for the Thunder, but that’s all they really need.  They also get Kyle Singler, a good shooting forward who’ll play decent minutes.  Singler also has a future, as he was drafted 2011.  OKC might want to keep him awhile.

In addition, OKC flipped Kendrick Perkins for Enes Kanter and Steve Novak.  Kanter is exactly the guy they needed, but it didn’t seem like they were gonna head that direction (more on that later).  Perkins, ugh, he’s so tough to talk about.  His ups&downs are constant, giving him an inconsistent vibe, which is something no one likes.  This trade basically solidified the idea that Utah doesn’t care about winning.  Say what you want about Enes Kanter, but he’s young, and so is Utah.  It seemed a tad strange that they would give up on him.  Though, Kanter is an expiring contract, and Utah probably didn’t see him coming back.  Perhaps OKC likes him so much they keep him.

Overall, OKC rebuilt their bench in one trade, and it’s a marvelous job by Sam Presti.  They’re ready to start passing teams for a playoff spot.

Detroit seems determined to make the playoffs.  Though they only made two trades, and got Tayshaun Prince and Reggie Jackson, pretty much the same guy, they got depth, and that’s what you need in the playoffs.

At this point, who knows what’s up with Utah.  Bad teams are so hard to figure out.

Boston gets: Isaiah Thomas
Phoenix gets: Marcus Thornton, CLE pick

Thoughts: Phoenix was one of the biggest players in this deadline.  After trading Goran Dragic to Miami, the Suns decided to clean house at point guard and ship Isaiah Thomas to Boston.  The Suns had just signed Thomas this past summer, and he played the 3rd point guard role the Suns experimented with.  Turns out, as much fun as it was to watch, it didn’t work.

So yeah, I’m bummed.  Phoenix has been known for their chemistry this year, and blowing it up seems a little risky.  I’ll get into that more later.  They (kinda) made up for it though (more no that later too).

Boston gets Isaiah Thomas, as he automatically becomes the best player on that Celtics squad.  Thomas wasn’t featured in Sacramento or Phoenix.  The Celtics give him that role.  He’ll enjoy it.

Adding Marcus Thornton will help Phoenix fill the lack of big men, as that seems like their goal at this deadline.  Thornton is a great big man, and continues to be a pinball, which is sometimes a good thing.  In Marcus Thornton’s case, it is.

Milwaukee gets: Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, Miles Plumlee
Philadelphia gets: Lakers pick (protected)
Phoenix gets: Brandon Knight, Kendall Marshall

Thoughts: My first reaction to this was “Oh my god, Philly doesn’t want to win whatsoever”.  That point has already been made, but this just capitalized it.  I mean, good lord!  The 76ers gave up Michael Carter-Williams, who they spent their 11th overall pick on in 2013.  Williams was also, by the way, the Rookie of the Year that year.

It seems that Philly had already given up on him, and just wanted to dump him somewhere else.  Them being Philly, they could easily do that.  However, the return actually made sense.

To get the deal done, Phoenix jumped in, and sent Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis to the Bucks.  In return, Milwaukee sent Brandon Knight to Phoenix, who’s had the best season of his career.

The biggest bummer out of all of this?  The Suns sent the Lakers pick they own to Philly.  So that’s great.  With this, unless the Lakers end up in the top five of the lottery, Philly will have TWO top ten picks.  Their own and the Lakers (again, possibly).

This creates one big mess, with no true winner.  The easiest case is for Phoenix, who basically replaced Dragic with Knight.  With him in the best season of his career, the Bucks got heavily criticized for it.  I understand why.  I have no idea why they did it.  But I’ll take it!

The pick Philly got could turn out huge down the stretch.  That’s simply a wait and see.

As for Phoenix, check it:

What Are They Doing?:

Phoenix:  Knowing Dragic was leaving, they shipped him out of town while also cleaning up the left overs.  There was no way Eric Bledsoe was getting moved, leaving Isaiah Thomas.  Shipping him out gave them a bench big (Thornton) and a future pick.  It seems like they know they’re taking a risk.  Here’s that case:

Possibly Phoenix knew that this team isn’t last years’.  They know that the conference got better, and that they were holding on to their playoff lives.  With OKC now ahead of the Suns, maybe they have realized that this may not be the year, again.  So, they break up the chemistry, rebuild it, and wait and hope that it comes together.  Maybe it’s not this year.  Throw this year away, and stride toward next season.

Milwaukee:  Opposite from Phoenix, Milwaukee can easily make the playoffs this year.  They’re sitting at sixth right now, and would have to truly tank not to make it.  The Bucks knew this, and took a chance trading away one of their best players.  The return is the reward, however:  Good, solid players who give you a future.  Miles Plumlee, MCW, and Tyler Ennis are all young.  That’s three solid young players.  It’s a win-now, yet a plan for the future move.

Denver: I expected them to be a fire-sale.  Everyone of their roster was supposed to be on the block, yet they made two moves.  Can you only imagine what Ty Lawson or Kenneth Faried would mean to a playoff team?

What Could Have Been:

Blockerbuster:  Reportedly, OKC, Brookyln, Minnesota, and Philly had a deal in place all day that would’ve sent Brook Lopez to OKC and Reggie Jackson to Brooklyn.  Then, Kevin Garnett would have gone Minnesota (which did obviously happen) (separate trade) and Thaddeus Young would have gone back to Philly.

This monster sat there all day, and kinda held the league hostage.  Nothing happened until Denver sent Aaron Affalo to Portland.  Then, the monster deal fell apart.  What happened?  OKC screwed Brooklyn over, and went with Enes Kanter instead of Brook Lopez.  Then KG went to Minnesota separately.  This thing was that close to happening.

SHOUTOUT:

Every trade deadline, in any sport, there’s someone who has all the trades before anyone else.  This deadline, it was Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.  The dude had every trade.  This is the stuff he gets paid for.

When the final ten minutes approached, and final five trades went through (“final” in reference to the order in the column), Adrian got a little overwhelmed.  This sums up the whole day.

I was in English class when this was posted.  It’s exactly how I felt.

Theme song: 

This was every GM in the league Thursday, or at least 17 of them.

Could The MLB Really Change The Strike Zone?

I walked into science class on Friday around quarter to noon.  I asked my friend, who sits next to me, and who isn’t a baseball fan, what he thought the strike zone was.  A kid behind me came up, and said, “Well, it’s from your nips to the knees.”

Yup.  That’s exactly true.  My friend agreed while also laughing.

On Thursday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports posted a column, reporting that the MLB is considering changing the strike zone.  I was instantly furious, and thought that it would be completely insane that the strike zone could be altered.  I blamed Yahoo! for putting it up, and was quite confused that it was even a possibility.  The MLB will reportedly look into it this year, and conduct studies.  No change will be made until the 2016 season, however.

As I read the column though, I realized that it had happened before.  Before I was born.  Before anyone I’m friends with were born.  In 1996, the MLB moved it from the top of the knees to the bottom, expanding the zone.

I was quite shocked that it had ever happened.  I had only known it as one zone since I had been born.  I never played baseball (on a team) growing up, but still attended games at a young age.  I knew it as, well, said above by the kid in my science class.

The idea is still crazy to me.  Changing the strike zone means changing everything.  You have to change how little leaguers pitch, how high schoolers pitch, and how college players get ready to get drafted.  Bottom line: You have to the change the way people think.  That’s the main issue.

The strike zone has been known as one zone by me and everyone born after 1996.  From the nips to the knees.  The bottom of the knees, to be exact.

The MLB is now considering changing it back.  Shrinking it.  Moving it from the bottom of the knees to the top.  The excuse?  To bring more offense into the game.  That only brings up more issues.

Offense has been down over the past years.  Jeff Passan did a great job in that column laying out how stats, like walks, have been down.  Strikeouts are at an all-time high.  Stats don’t lie, we know that.

Stats are also proving that eras exist.  Baseball, and sports in general, go through eras.  We’re in the passing era with football.  That’s just how things work.  Baseball, currently, is in a pitchers era.  Pitchers have been dominate since 2010, and it goes back farther than that.

Pitchers these days are taking advantage of the analytical era.  They are using the advanced statistics to figure what pitch to throw, to that guy, on that strike count, and even in that inning.  These stats are narrowing it down that much.  And it’s working.  We’re seeing it take place with this possible rule change.

It’s something we simply need to get over.  We’re in a pitchers era, and we have been for awhile.  So now it’s an issue?  The MLB is freaked out by it, for some reason no knows.  It’s happened before.  I don’t know why it’s such a big deal.

Maybe, the MLB is taking after the NFL.  Changing the rules to their advantage.  The NFL’s been doing the same thing for the past year.  It’s like Animal Farm.  Oh, wait, that rings a bell!

I sent this email to Bill Simmons, who's opinion on Roger Goodell has been very public, and has even gotten him in trouble.  He put it in his Championship Mailbag, and responded quite humorously.  It made my day.
I sent this email to Bill Simmons, who’s opinion on Roger Goodell has been very public, and has even gotten him in trouble. He put it in his Championship Mailbag, and responded quite humorously.  It made my day.

The tactic that sports leagues are using now is exactly like the book.  Here’s what the MLB is doing:

Expanding offense means more excitement.  Baseball is exciting no matter what.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a 10-9 game or a 1-0 game.  It’s exciting to me and many people around the country.  But for kids who aren’t like me (sports nerds), it’s not exciting.  Kids these days like fast paced games, like football and basketball.  Teenagers would rather be playing on their phone than watch baseball.  That’s a serious problem that the MLB faces.

So shrinking the strike zone means more walks.  It doesn’t mean more hits and home runs, but  walks mean guys on base, which sets up runs.  Runs mean excitement, and excitement means more eyeballs on the game.  Young eyeballs.

Basically, this is a PR stunt.  More runs means more offense, and that’s what kids and people who aren’t pure baseball fans want.  For people like me, who are peeing their pants waiting for baseball season to start, it doesn’t matter.

If you shrink the strike zone, and increase offense, it’s going to drag out the game.  Oh!  Wait!  Isn’t the MLB concerned about length of game?

The MLB is basically contradicting themselves without knowing it.  Length of game has been the biggest issue in baseball for quite awhile.  Heck, we’re experimenting with it in minor league games with pitch clocks.

More offense, hits, and walks drags out the game.  Big offensive innings can last 45 minutes sometimes.  Those are killer.  If we’re gonna walk guys more, and expand offense, then we need to prepare for longer games.  That can’t be what the MLB wants.

At this point, it seems that nobody can figure out what the MLB wants.  I’m not even sure they know what they want.  It seems that no one has realized that the MLB is contradicting themselves.  No one is talking about it.

I’ve been entitled to the opinion that baseball has been dying over past years.  It’s not talked about as often as it used to be.  It’s all Spring Training expectations and A-Rod right now.  Kids aren’t totally excited any more.  It’s “Oh, baseball is starting?  Let me know when the playoff race heats up”.

The MLB has many issues right now, and solutions for them aren’t promising.  These are longer term things, but it seems that nobody wants to be the one to propose something.

I don’t know what it is with sports leagues these days.  How can multi-billion dollar businesses be so screwed up at the top?  The MLB isn’t screwed up, yet.  It could be on it’s way to that.  It makes no sense that something worth so much can be so messy.  I don’t get it.

New commissioner Rob Manfred hasn’t had the best proposals, according to fans and myself.  Not all of them I agree with.  If the MLB wants to get more people’s attention, worry about time.  Not everyone has it.  Make it as convenient as possible to watch baseball.  Inputing more offense could drag games close to five hours.

Honestly, there’s no reason to be impressed with the MLB right now.  The problems are being hidden, giving no one anything to talk about.  That’s what we like to talk about in this day and age right, problems?  It’s amazing how we love this league(s) so much, yet a messes are present at the top.  The MLB isn’t there yet, but it’s certainly getting close.

Baseball preview coming soon…

The Kings Hire of George Karl And The Evolution Of Big Men

When the Kings unexpectedly and stupidly fired Mike Malone, George Karl was one of the first names to float around.  The former and legendary coach has worked with ESPN since his release from the Nuggets organization,  that being another sour ending.

After speculation, mis-reports, and everything else we see with this type of thing, the Kings finally announced the hire Thursday.  The former coach has 1,131 wins in his career, spanning five teams since 1984.  Karl is a great basketball mind.  He’s coached some great teams.  However, the move the Kings made ties right back to the top, or the brass of the organization.  It just so happens that it ties back to their crazy, too-involved, owner.

Vivek Randive is insane.  The guy is way too involved, and floats unnecessary ideas.  Randive is ridiculously overpowered in the organization, and nobody, obviously, has the balls to confront him about it.  Then again, he is the owner, so really, he’s in charge.

It doesn’t matter though.  Randive isn’t a good owner, and everybody knows it.  The players and front office people know it too, and it’s such a shame.  It’s quite obvious that this move came from the top.  It was made strictly by the brass and Randive.

“I don’t fire coaches or hire them. Everyone knows I liked and respected Coach Malone. I didn’t want his to happen.”

The following quote is from DeMarcus Cousins, easily the best player on this Kings team, and one of the best big men in the league.  Cousins has had his issues with himself, teammates, and brass of the team, but he’s really good.  Boogie (Cousins’ nickname) needs to have some say in this.

And it sounds like this hiring turned out the same way.  Boogie had no say.  None.  That has to be concerning.  If I’m the Kings brass, the hiring has to be 100% Boogie approved.  He’s already had his issues with the team and the brass, and clearly wasn’t fond of Malone’s firing.

This is just one example of how this needs to change, as I sound like I’m answering a question on a worksheet at school.  The Kings brass has seriously flaws, ones that are unfortunately affecting this team.  They have to hope this works out.

As for the fit itself, I can’t say I’m totally hyped about it (neither is Boogie).  I don’t know if this is the right team for Karl.  Or maybe, he changes it.  Cleans house.  Meaning, having a say on draft picks.  Building the team with the brass.  Not just coaching.  That’s what Sacramento needs.

This is a team that was close to moving to Seattle a summer ago.  It came really close.  The city kept the Kings.  They kept it for winning.  They kept it hoping for a better future.  As of right now, this isn’t what Kings fans were looking for.

Karl and the team has a tough task ahead.  They aren’t only trying to make this team good.  Getting the fan base spread around is another case that needs to be worked on.  Only people who grew up in Sacramento, which trust me, is not a big town, are Kings fans.  I lived in the Bay Area for four years before moving to the Twin Cities this past summer.  I never knew one Kings fan.  Though Sacramento is an hour northeast of the Bay, it’s still in range to catch a game.  I only went to one Kings game while living there.  That’s also concerning, giving my ridiculous fandom.

Honestly, going to a Kings game rather than a Warriors game never crossed my mind.  Golden State has always been better.  The Kings never were.  I understand that this is a PR related topic, but, if Karl can turn this team around, that’s where the other things start to churn.


 

A sudden epidemic has hit the NBA over these past couple weeks.  Centers, power forwards, and big men in general are getting injured.  These are players that mean a lot to their team.  Big guys anchor a team, and provide chemistry.

This rash of injuries has affected Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, and Blake Griffin.  Now, all of their injuries are different, but it’s having impact on their teams.  It also depends on what role they play with their team, which is something that has been in rapid change over the years.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote a column on Wednesday talking about the new types of big men, and how roles are being changed.  It was a great piece, yet I totally disagree.  There aren’t any true centers anymore.  Centers are strictly for rim protection and dirty work inside the paint.  They get blocks and post-up.  That’s their job, or, supposed to be.

Centers now are expanding their game and their range.  They’re taking long jumpers, some pushing 20 feet.  The rim protection is fading, though teams are taking more threes than ever.  Teams like Houston and Chicago are still running the true center system.  Houston has Dwight Howard, who as said above, is injured.  Howard isn’t the same guy he was in Orlando, but is still very effective.  His defensive presence is still there.

Chicago runs a true center system with Joakim Noah.  However, with the help they’ve employed (players like Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol), Noah doesn’t have to do it all.  Noah’s never been a jump shooter; neither has Gasol.  That’s where Mirotic’s role comes in.  He’s the power forward, and he’s a true power forward.

Power forwards are typically smaller than centers, but they have to be to do their job.  Power forwards and big men who can play defense and work in the paint.  Their addition is the mid-range shot.  It creates more opportunities.  Chicago has done a great job with this.  The three headed monster of Noah, Gasol, and Mirotic has worked perfectly, even with their struggles as of late.

It seems like everyone else in the league is running mutations of power forwards and centers.  Stretch 4s and point centers are becoming common.  Some of these teams are capable of running these mutations, and some aren’t.

Call it an era or a change in style of play, but big men aren’t what they used to be.  Their evolving, and whether it works or not remains to be seen.  Some teams can make it happen, but some can’t, and that’s where critics show up.


On Carmelo Anthony POSSIBLY shutting it down after the All-Star break:

Carmelo Anthony hasn’t officially said he’s shutting down after the All-Star break, but many quotes have lead on to it becoming true.  “Very likely” was the latest we’ve heard from Melo on it.  I’m gonna write this as if he is shutting down.

This season has been a mess for the Knicks, but it’s not like we didn’t see it coming.  We all knew this team wouldn’t work at the beginning of the year.  The team is now worse than the 76ers, and still have the crazy, stupid owner.  Nothing has changed, and it looks like nothing will.

That’s why Melo is shutting down.  There isn’t anything to play for.  Why risk getting hurt?

Overall, I’d love to get paid $20 million and play half a season.  Sounds great.

Melo has claimed he’ll use the All-Star break to recruit some free agents this coming summer.

New York is a mess, and it’s not going to get better unless they sign some people.  That’s why I agree with Melo shutting down and using the break to recruit people.  This isn’t a good team.  It needs help, badly.

I absolutely love the James Dolan website.  It’s hilarious.

You have to trust Phil Jackson.  You have to hope that he knows where he wants this team to go.  That’s the only chance and hope you have as a Knicks fan.

It’s absolutely crazy that we live in a age of basketball where the Knicks, Lakers, and Celtics suck.  I don’t think it’s ever happened before.  Welcome to the analytic age, where teams can draft and use stats to play good basketball.  Not just by signing players.

James Shields Finally Signs, While The Padres Continue To Impress

It’s been awhile since the San Diego Padres have been competitive.  A long, unfortunate, and simply depressing drought has plagued this team.  2010 was their last ‘successful’ season, as they won 90 games, but failed to make the playoffs.  That year, San Diego finished 2nd in the NL West.

Since, the team hasn’t won 80 games.  It’s been a rough streak.  It’s been constant letdowns from prospects, mis-managements, and simply bad play.  There ain’t a lot that compares to it.

But now, the Padres have revamped their squad.  San Diego is being talked about as a baseball team more than ever.  After a plecthora of offseason moves, acquiring many starry names and great talents, the Padres are ready to roll in 2015.

San Diego’s biggest addition happened to be the last big-name free agent available in James Shields.  Shields has waited and waited to make his decision, and it ultimately hurt his stock.  The wait was an interesting one, and tested my patience for quite awhile.  I just wanted him to sign.

That decision came Sunday night, when reports surfaced that the Padres were the team Shields would sign with.  In someways, it was no surprise.  This was the cherry on top for San Diego.

I expected Shields to sign with the Marlins.  I wrote a column two weeks ago basically telling Shields to hurry up.  I made my prediction, but didn’t really consider the Padres.  When that announcement came, I pretty much went, “Ah, I see what you’re (the Padres) doing here.”

The move makes total sense.  San Diego has gone all in this offseason.  Why not just capitalize it?

Shields is a great pitcher, and is an ace on most squads.  Shields should take over that role on the Padres.  Though his postseason with Kansas City wasn’t great, his nickname ‘Big Game James’ certainly tags on.

Shields has a great fastball.  Its his go-to pitch and works like a charm.  His velocity has remained high throughout his career, which is something the Padres should have confidence in.    The Padres expect a 18 game winner in Shields, and that’s at least.  San Diego though, has done a great job with the rotation already.  That has to be kept in mind.

The contract that the Padres gave Shields is the most jaw-dropping, insane thing about this deal.  In a great way.  How?  Well, what if I told you the contract was worth four years, and $75 million?  Yea, talk about a bargain.

This falls on Shields for waiting and holding out.  His value only dropped, and it cost him possibly $50 million.  I expected Shields to get a contract worth at least $100 million.  The contract is a huge benefit for the Padres, as they get their ace for a cheaper price than expected.  Some had Shields’ value at $120 million.  Four years is the perfect frame.  This is exactly what San Diego wanted.

The teams that were in on Shields were pitcher needy.  San Diego wasn’t.  They have a stellar rotation already, adding to an offseason that included some huge moves.  The Padres are ready to rock and roll in 2015.  Here’s why:

A.J. Preller deserves so much much credit.  It’s unbelievable what he has done with this team in such a short time span.  San Diego wasn’t even talked about as an offseason spender when the season ended, but when Preller took over, that changed fast.

The first move was a risky one.  San Diego got Matt Kemp and Tim Federowicz from the Dodgers.  Kemp has been one of the friskiest players in the league.  When he’s healthy, he can hit the ball outstandingly, and plays great right field.  The injury bug has plagued him throughout his career, as it seems every year it’s something else.  After breakouts and letdowns, the Dodgers finally were tired of it, and shipped him out.

As many Dodger fans were sad, the return is where the risk level for San Diego spikes.  The Padres sent Yasmani Grandal, a highly praised prospect in his youth, who has failed to live up to expectations.  After problems with the Padres and a PED suspension, Grandal looks to bounce back with the Dodgers.  He’s only 26, so he has time to shift his career.  Hopefully, the Dodgers can help him out, and eventually win this trade, since Kemp has had his own issues.

That trade was only 1/3 of the Padres had up their sleeve.  Turns out, a total revamp of the outfield was in place.  San Diego then traded for Justin Upton from Atlanta.  Upton, who began his career with the Diamondbacks, has been a great offensive player during his career, but had dipped in production since arriving with the Braves.  Upton plays good defense in left field.  He has to start finding the ball, and that’s what the Padres expect from him, giving what they gave up.

Max Fried went to Atlanta in return.  It’s another big cough for the Padres, as he was their No.1 overall pick in 2012.  Fired has been solid since being drafted.  Though, the Padres know the consequences, and understand them.  They’re in win now mode.  They feel like they can win this year.

I feel like they can too.  The team also acquired Will Myers from Tampa Bay, another big bat, completing their outfield revamp.  The lineup looks scary.  Derek Norris, another piece San Diego acquired this offseason, is expected to lead off.  Gap hitters follow, while the outfielders top it off with power.

It looks really dicey, and that’s without the rotation.  With Shields addition, he joins Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross.  That’s a handful to deal with for opposing teams.  All three of those guys have shown flashes and proven themselves throughout their careers.  With other younger pitchers on the team, the bullpen should shape up nicely too.

I really think San Diego can win a lot more games than last year.  With the revamp thanks to A.J. Preller, the Padres are going to be reckon with.  The main problem is the division that they play in the NL West.  It happens to feature the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

No matter what, Padres fans, finally, have something to root for.  You can’t promise it this year, but the future looks bright.

Who’s To Be Taken Seriously In The NHL

The NHL seems to be becoming more and more like basketball.  Though the playoff systems are different in the two leagues, gaps are becoming evident between the two conferences.  In the NBA, the Western Conference is incredible.  A team or two could win 50 games and not make the playoffs.  In the Eastern Conference, a team that doesn’t even win 40 games may make it.

It’s not the same in the NHL, but it is similar in a different way.  So far this season, I’ve watched way more Western Conference NHL than Eastern.  Why?  It’s simply more interesting.  It’s more fun to watch.  I really don’t know why.  But, I find the Western Conference teams better, more fun, and more pleasing to watch than the Eastern teams.

The West also has a more exciting playoff race setting up, like the NBA.  In my opinion, right now, there are six possible teams in the West that could end up making the playoffs.  Two are already in, that being Winnipeg and Calgary.  My point:  More teams look like playoff teams in the West than the East, setting up a better race at the end of season.  The case:  It’s exactly like the NBA.  The West is more fun to watch and will leave someone out who’s deserving.

Unlike basketball, the Eastern Conference in hockey is good too.  It’s not like it sucks, it’s just not as interesting, and probably won’t have a really exciting playoff race.  That doesn’t mean there is some surprises.

Throughout this column, I’m going to go through who I’m taking seriously now, and will talk about what their playoff odds are.  I’ll also survey each playoff race

East:

New York Islanders

This has to be the best story of the year.  Nobody saw this coming.  This was a team that had been through pure misery in years past.  They were desperate.  They made a run in the 2013 playoffs, but had had a major drought in years before.

This year, the team is putting it together, thanks to a big and very underrated move they made prior to the season.  The addition of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk was huge.  It provided them much needed defense, yet they rank 23rd in goals against.

John Taveras has been great this year, finally breaking out.  He has 24 goals, tied for 8th in the league.  His play and leadership has only boosted this team.

I like the Islanders going forward.  They can’t get cocky and let up though.  The Capitals sit behind them, while the Rangers are in the Wild Card.

I don’t know yet whether they can make a deep playoff run, as they are a lot younger and don’t have as much experience as other teams, but they are talented, and that’s the key.  It’d have to be an epic collapse for this team to fall out of the race.  I expect this keep up.  Let the fairytale continue.

Quick hits in the East:

  • Trade everybody Toronto!
  • The Red Wings are scary if they stay healthy
  • Don’t look at where I put Tampa Bay in prediction column

I need more words for this.  The Rangers and Bruins currently sit in the Wild Card spots in the East.  This isn’t what I expected from either team, though New York (as I be homer) is the better team.  Boston has struggled with injuries, but still have no reason to not make the playoffs.

Really, the Eastern Playoffs are set.  I don’t see anybody hopping in or falling out.  I think it just depends on seeding and matchups from here on out.  Florida has been quite surprising this year, yet, well.  It’s the Panthers.  They’re moving in two years.  C’mon.

Philadelphia can still not goal tend to save their playoff life.  It’s going to keep them out of the playoffs if it can’t get better.  And just I’m writing this, Steve Mason is hurt.  OH, WAIT, HE HURT HIMSELF, ON A TV TIMEOUT!!!! LOL FLYERS.  LOL.

West:

Ah, now to the fun part.  As I said above, it’s not that the West is better than the East.  It’s simply more exciting, and has more playoff teams within contention.  The West though, is also a lot more confusing.  Given that there are more teams in contention, it makes it hard to evaluate.

First though, I want to talk about Nashville, who has overcome all their past issues and have put it together this season.

Nashville Predators:

This team has been incredibly fun to watch.  They haven’t been on national TV a whole lot, but when they are, it’s a delight to watch.  The fun thing about Nashville is that they are smooth.  They play so gracefully, and don’t turn the puck over to much.  Their offense and defense has both been incredible, propelling them to the top spot.

The team is 5th in the NHL in points scored, averaging just under three a game.  The Predators have been driven by this.  Flip Forsberg has been huge, scoring 48 points and 18 goals.

The defense has also been outstanding, ranked 3rd in the league.  Guys like Shea Weber and Anton Volchenkov have been lock down, and being a couple of the older guys on the team, they serve as leadership.

I really like this team.  They’re young, yet have the right amount of leadership.  This is a franchise that has gone through front office and coaching hell these past couple years.  It seems like things have changed now.  They finally have a solid crop of talent.

There is no way Nashville is going to collapse.  They have 76 points coming into tonight.  That’s first in the league.  They’re really, really good.  They play in a tough division, but have lots of talent to keep them up.  I can’t say whether they’re built to make a playoff run, but I’m leaning towards the “yes”, rather than the “no”.

The rest of the Western Conference is super fun.  While the Central division is tough, yet has stayed the same when it comes to the leaders, the Pacific always seems to be changing, due to the insane Wild Card Race.  As of Monday afternoon, Vancouver owns the 3rd spot in the Pacific division.  This has been constantly in change.

Besides the division race, the Wild Card will only be heating up till the end of the season.  With Calgary and Winnipeg in the spots now, the two teams are going to have to play great hockey to keep it.  As said above, four teams, in my opinion, have the possibility to jump them.  Two certainly stick out.

I want to love this Dallas Stars team.  I really do.  Every time I watch them they’re flying around the ice.  They’re an incredible offensive team.  The defense though, has always been the problem.  Ranking 27th, the team needs more help.  They already made a trade with the Sharks, acquiring Jason Demers.  The move was a great one for them, but it hasn’t been enough.  The trade deadline is March 2nd.  That gives Dallas plenty of time to make a move.  They need to if they want to get into the playoff race.  With a possible trade, this team could be lining up for a playoff push.

The Wild are the Pittsburgh Steelers of hockey.  Nobody can figure them out.  I live in the Twin Cities, am surrounded at school by hockey players and Wild fans, and nobody can figure them out.  I can’t figure it out.  It’s just odd.  The problem all year has been the goaltending.  Acquiring Devan Dubnyk has worked well, but injuries have still plagued the team.  Dubnyk has been good, and the trade seems worth it.  Other issues though have came up though.  The defense that we expected to see from this team has dwindled, and it’s killed them.  The young guys on the defense have to step, as I’ve been saying all year.

Watching this team almost every night and being a fan of them is becoming frustrating.  Why?  Well, they lose stinkers.  They lose games they shouldn’t, then win games they shouldn’t.  It’s impossible to figure out.  It’s why I can’t see them making playoffs, yet it’s also why I think they could make a late season run and get in. It’s a mess! And yet, out of these six teams, Minnesota and Colorado seem to be the least likely to get in.  What a cluster!

The defending champion Los Angeles Kings have not been living up to the expectation this year.  It’s a strange phenomena.  The Kings are still hanging in the race, but injuries and bad defense have killed them this year.  The Kings can still make the playoffs, but better hockey has to be on the horizon.  Like Minnesota, they lose really bad games.  It hurts them in the standings.  It can’t happen any longer.

Winnipeg and Calgary are both playing very well.  The Flames have flickered in and out of the top three in the Pacific, but better teams sit above, and that’s okay.  The Jets were my edge team at the beginning of the season.  I wanted to like them, but had to wait until the season began.  They’ve played great, and I honestly think this a team that could make a run.  Winning division games will be key for them, as teams below will start to trend upwards.

Western Conference Quick Hits:

  • There’s only two bad teams in the West: Arizona and Edmonton
  • Expect the Coyotes to be big-time sellers at the deadline
  • The Stars have to buy
  • Chicago, honestly, looks like the best team in the West
  • Don’t sleep on a rise of the Blues later this season

The NFL’s Most Disappointing Teams

I hate writing this column.  For any sport.  It sucks when a team that everyone had high expectations for doesn’t live up to them.  It sucks even more when you’re a fan of that team.  This past NFL season, we had about five teams that didn’t live up to the hype.  Three reside in the same division, and two that played in tough divisions, but still didn’t perform accordingly.

The whole NFC South (Catastrophe):

This was truly a catastrophe.  Any time a team wins a division with under 10 wins is embarrassing.  The NFC South made that look good.  Every team in the division finished with a sub .500 record, with the Panthers winning it at 7-8-1.  Somehow, that team made the playoffs.  Somehow, they beat my Cardinals.  But, then again, Ryan Lindley was starting for Arizona.  So the Panthers had that game won before they even took the field.

The talk about that game puts me in a bad mood.

The Panthers “playoff season” looked like a mess early.  They started 2-2, and had quarterback Cam Newton out after having a surgery in the offseason.  The defense wasn’t playing as we expected it to, which killed my fantasy team for weeks.  In Week 6, Carolina tied with Cincinnati. That ended up sending the team into a six game losing streak.  At this point, we knew that their division was a dumpster fire, and that whoever would win it would not be a serious contender.

The Panthers though closed out the year on a four game win streak, which landed them the 4th seed, obviously, in the NFC playoffs.

It doesn’t matter if the Panthers made the playoffs.  You can’t consider this a good year.  The Panthers weren’t challenged within their division.  I’m not even sure they were the best team in that division.

Coming into next year, Carolina has to fix the defense.  The struggles they had last year were shocking.  Nobody saw it coming.  If they can play like they did two years ago, then this might be  better team next year.  The offensive side needs some more weapons, mostly at wide receiver.  Carolina has some good, young talent on that side of the ball.  They have to develop it.

The New Orleans Saints just might be the biggest letdown of anyone in this column.  I had them at 13-3 and winning the South!  13-3!

So what happened?  Well, I’d hate to say it, but Drew Brees started to show the flashes of aging. He’s still a great QB, but the mobility and big plays weren’t there this season.  New Orleans had the chance to win with their offense, but couldn’t do it due to Brees’ inabilities.

Their defense wasn’t anything special, as we expected coming into the year.  That obviously didn’t help.  New Orleans ended up at 7-9, which actually sounds a bit better than 7-8-1.  The tie is what gave Carolina the advantage.  I disagree with the way that works.  Ties are so rare and stupid that they should hurt you more than a loss.  This is football.  Your supposed to score.  Crazy stuff is supposed to happen.  Let it.

Anyways, New Orleans’ start to the season is what killed them.  Losses to Minnesota, Cleveland and Tampa Bay had them at 2-3 by Week 5.  Turns out at the end of the year, they should have won those.  A three game losing streak later in the year let us know that this wasn’t the team that we expected, and like Carolina, wasn’t playoff worthy.  No matter what.

The problem for New Orleans coming into this offseason is they’re cap-strapped.  Completely.  They can’t do anything.  Cutting guys is the only option.  Cutting guys that they wouldn’t want to cut.  For example Marques Colston.  That’d be a big loss.  It’s only one of the tough decisions New Orleans faces.  It also shows how this might not be a different team next year.

The Falcons were a team I thought would bounce back, but the same issues persisted for them this past year.  First, the offensive line was horrific, and couldn’t open any lanes for Steven Jackson.  The oh-so familiar injury bug went around the team again, affecting their main wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones.  The offense was close to stagnant all year.  It could literally do nothing.

Atlanta’s defense was also a disaster, as the defensive line couldn’t stop any one.  It was a mess all around, and they should feel lucky they finished at 6-10.  I knew that they could of had this type of season, but I really like Matt Ryan, and felt that he could command this team.  As we saw, he needs help.  That help wasn’t there.

As a result, the Falcons fired Mike Smith, whose job was already hanging on a string before the season.  Smith might have been one of the worst coaches in the league.  His decision making had always been bad, especially in crunch time.  Atlanta has now replaced Smith with Dan Quinn.  Quinn should be able to build the defense up, which he did masterfully in Seattle.  That’s where he needs to start.  The Falcons have talent on the offense.  They need to stay healthy and now execute.

I don’t feel like talking about Tampa Bay.  I’ll get to that come draft time.

San Francisco 49ers:

I’m gonna have to be careful with what I say here.  I have lots of friends very upset with how this season ended for San Francisco.  Let’s just say, it’s not what anyone expected.

Finishing at 8-8, the 49ers let many down.  First, the offense could never get going in any game against any team.  The weapons they had installed wouldn’t produce.  It wasn’t all their fault, however.  Colin Kaepernick didn’t have a good year at all.  His play at QB was never like it used to be.  We expect flash from Kaepernick.  His struggles were due to his lack of mobility.  His game is best when he’s out of the pocket.  That option wasn’t presented this year, and it killed the team.

The 49ers also struggled on the defensive side due to injuries, suspensions and bad play.  The defensive line had a rough start to the season.  Aldon Smith was suspended, while Ray McDonald had legal issues.  Justin Smith lost his touch, and eventually retired because of it.

San Francisco’s secondary had issues, as they lost multiple guys before the year began.  All these issues combined for San Francisco, and it wasn’t long before we realized that this team wasn’t heading back up.  Jim Harbaugh’s job started to come into question.

Honestly, I didn’t see this coming from San Francisco.  I thought they’d be competing for a Super Bowl trip, as they had been in years past.  The 49ers issues all collided at the same time.  It costed Harbaugh his job; mutual parting of ways.  Harbaugh obviously took the University of Michigan job.

With new coach Jim Tomsula, the 49ers have to get back to their old ways.  Letting Kaepernick loose is the key.  He’s better when you let him do it himself.  You can’t contain him.  That’s the defense’s job.

San Francisco also has to implement discipline.  The suspensions killed them last year.  It can’t happen again.

I think the change of locker room culture might hurt the 49ers a bit.  Tomsula isn’t Harbaugh, who’s crazy and energetic.  Tomsula may be sharp-nosed and tough.  It’s gonna take some adjusting for this team.  Especially for the younger guys.

I can’t say what San Francisco will be like next year.  It’s too tough to evaluate now.

Chicago Bears:

Forget disappointing.  What happened to the Bears this past season is almost beyond words.  It’s unbelievable how bad they were.  Chicago went 5-11.  Jay Cutler was a disaster.  The defense was horrendous.  Marc Trestman got fired.  I’m literally laying it all out, because it was such a mess and such a surprise.

The Bears main problem was Jay Cutler.  He threw 18 interceptions this past year.  The offense didn’t help him, with Matt Forte having trouble running the ball and injuries hurting their receiving core.  This isn’t what the Bears paid for.  Cutler has a $126 million contract.  That’s a lot of money.  He’s hasn’t been worth it.  At all.

I don’t know whether Cutler will be on the Bears roster come August, but if I’m other teams who are QB needy, who feel like with him (Cutler) they could make a playoff run, I’m calling.  If I’m Buffalo, or even the Jets, I’m calling.  I doubt Cutler’s stock can be lower than it is now.

He wasn’t the only issue for Chicago though.  The defense, which wasn’t expected to be great, was horrible.  Worse than I expected it to be.  They couldn’t stop anyone in the secondary or up front.  Overall, it was a mess.  It took them out of games when it could have stepped up in relief for the offense.

The season costed Marc Trestman his job.  Honestly, deservedly so.  Trestman’s system on offense wasn’t flying with Cutler any longer.  It was the right move, but it was also worth the shot for Chicago.  Trestman’s stint can’t be looked at as a failure.

The Bears hired John Fox in replace of Trestman.  This is a great hire.  No matter who’s on the roster, Fox should be able to fix this team up.  Chicago has a decision to make with Cutler.  Fox should have a say.  He’s the one who’ll be working with him.

I’m not sure how great Chicago will be next season, but within the next couple years, they should be back to contention.